Religious Degrees, Practice & The Law

The United New Testament Church, International Ministry Association, Inc. is a non-denominational Association of Christ-Centered New Testament Free Churches, based in Huntsville, Alabama, having active ministries, churches and ordained ministers serving the Body of Christ across the globe.

Trinity Evangelical Christian University is a private seminary of higher education serving ONLY the Members of that Body.

sem·i·nary  (noun) \ˈse-mə-ˌner-ē\  – an institution for the training of candidates for the priesthood, ministry, or rabbinate. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

seminary noun (Concise Encyclopedia)
Educational institution, usually for training in theology. In the U.S. the term was formerly also used to refer to institutions of higher learning for women, often teachers’ colleges. Since at least the 4th century there have been seminaries for the training of clergy. The first known group of seminarians was gathered by St. Basil of Ancyra. The term dropped out of general use in the Middle Ages, when most theological training was in monasteries, and later, in the universities. After the Reformation and the emergence of new denominations, seminaries again came into use, especially in the U.S.

We claim Matthew 28: 18-20 (Otherwise known as “The Great Commission”) as our final authority in all matters of our ministry online and offline:

“All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Mt. 28:18-20 ASV).

Our primary legal authority is the Word Of God. Secondly, our legal authority is the First Amendment. We can, and we should, rely upon the legal protections
ingeniously drafted by America’s Christian Founding Fathers, as embodied in the First Amendment, to prevent the State from meddling in religion. The term “church” does not appear in the First Amendment, but rather “religion.” To appreciate what the term “religion” means one should refer to a dictionary that was contemporary to America’s Founding Fathers. The only suitable one is the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary.

Clearly, the first clause, of the first sentence, of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…

explains the basis of why our ministry is legal. Any suggestion of our ministry’s work being illegal is nothing less than religious persecution, and should be considered as such. See also: US CODE: Title 42,CHAPTER 21B—RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION


The FEDERAL law is very clear about the validity and legality of religious designations:

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH, INC. Plaintiff

MAR 1, 1974

– Vs –

United States of America

Defendant Civil No. S-1964

Order

“From the Findings of Fact, the Court concludes, as a matter of law, that the plaintiff should prevail. Certainly, one seeking a tax exemption has the burden of establishing his right to a tax-exempt status. An organization qualifies for
an exemption under 26 U.S.C. Sec. 501(c)(3) only if it is ‘organized and operated exclusively for religious purposes.* * *1 In the defendant’s Memorandum in Support of its requested Instructions, filed February 28, 1973, ‘the
government admits that the plaintiff passes the organizational test.’…

“The Court must then address itself to the defendant’s second conclusion: that the ordination of ministers, the granting of church charters and the issuance of
Honorary Doctor of Divinity certificates by the plaintiff are substantial activities which do not further any religious purpose. Certainly the ordination of ministers and the chartering of churches are accepted activities
of religious organizations.
The defendant impliedly admits the same on Page 5 of its Memorandum in Support of its Requested Instructions. The fact that the plaintiff distributed ministers’ credentials and Honorary Doctor of Divinity
certificates is of no moment. Such activity may be analogized to mass conversions at a typical revival or religious crusade. Neither this Court, nor any branch of this Government, will consider the merits or fallacies of a
religion. Nor will the Court compare the beliefs, dogmas, and practices of a newly organized religion with those of an older, more established religion. Nor will the Court praise or condemn a religion, however excellent or fanatical or preposterous it may seem. Were the Court to do so, it would impinge upon the guarantees of the First Amendment…

“IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the plaintiff be and is entitled to a Federal Tax Exemption and to a refund of all monies levied against by the defendant with interest thereon from the date of levy, March 19, 1970.

“IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the defendant’s counterclaim be and is dismissed and the plaintiff is entitled to recover the reasonable costs of the suit herein.

“IT IS ALSO ORDERED that the plaintiff submit and appropriate judgment in accordance herewith.

“Done and dated this 27th day of February, 1974.”

James F. Batten

United States District Judge


The Constitution of the United States – Religious Freedom Issues

Amendment 1

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

COMMENT: This is the part of the Constitution which gives legality to all free expression of religion, including Online Ordination.


Amendment 14

1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

COMMENT: This provision basically reinforced that States may not interfere with our Constitutionally protected freedoms, including our free expression of religion.

5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.


Each STATE, however, addresses the issue of LICENSURE and Religious Counseling in a different way. We suggest you refer to your State’s Code referring to this issue (see below) for the most comprehensive information on this subject.

It is fairly common to assume that one must not present oneself as holding any other degree, or performing any other service, than that of Theocentric (Faith-Based) Counseling. Most States exempt Ordained Ministers and Individuals working in the Non-Profit realm from meeting full State mandated secular licensure requirements, with varying degrees of flexibility. (As an example, we have provided the link to the State of Alabama’s Code relating to this issue, which governs our local graduates: http://alisdb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/codeofalabama/1975/34%2D8a%2D3.htm) Distance learning degree candidates and life experience degree candidates are governed by their own local laws.

It is interesting to note that many Christian Counselors refuse to pursue State licensure, in that they are not allowed to pray with their clients, or suggest to them that prayer would help:

The state and federal governments also have jurisdictional boundaries. They cannot pass laws that prevent the church from fulfilling its purpose and ministering to humanity’s needs. The state recognizes that counseling is one of the responsibilities of the Church and its clergy. For this reason, the state does not (and must never be permitted to) interfere with the church ministry of counseling.

The major difference between state-licensed professional counselors and Pastoral or Christian counselors, who are under the authority of the Church (Body of Christ), is clear and well-defined. Counselors who have been licensed by the state are held to strict ethical standards which mandate an individual’s right to be free from religious interference. The state licensed professional counselor is usually forbidden to pray, read or refer to the Holy Scriptures, counsel against things such as homosexuality, abortion, etc. The only time a state licensed counselor can involve religious (Christian) principles, morals, activities, etc., is if the counselee initiates or requests counsel in this area. Even then, the state licensed professional counselor could integrate secular methods such as psychotherapy in their counseling approach.

Opposite from that, Pastoral counselors are required to pray, share their faith, read the Holy Scriptures, etc. The fact that Pastoral and Christian counselors do these things creates a clear distinction. We do not do the things that state licensed counselors do in counseling and they do not do the things we Pastoral counselors do.

As you can readily see, the state governs secular counselors and the Church is responsible to set standards and govern ministers who have devoted their lives to the ministry and to Pastoral counseling. None of this is to say that the Christian counselor, minister or priest is not permitted to request fees and receive remuneration for the services they render.”

You can research your State’s code relating to the government of licensure and practice regulation as it relates to faith-based counsel by visiting the Cornell University Legal Information Institute’s comprehensive listing of State Constitutions and Codes located here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/states/listing.html

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Dr. Nicole Weyant is the Founder of The United New Testament Church, International Ministry Association.